Five Things That I Learned From, “The Toronto Blessing”

I came to know the Lord in January, 1994 after speaking to a youth leader on the phone and telling him that I wanted to know how I can know that I am, “right with God”. After he shared the gospel with me, I put my faith in Jesus and started my journey of relationship with Him. I was sixteen years old, and I became part of a Vineyard Church.

The month that I became born again was the same month that something extraordinary happened in Toronto, Canada. A pastor named, Randy Clark went to a Vineyard church near the Toronto Airport to speak at a few meetings. I don’t think anyone knew what was about to take place. The presence of the Holy Spirit came into the room so tangiby that some people were not able to stand. Some were overcome with so much joy that they laughed uncontrollably for hours. Some shook violently as though they were being electrocuted. This sparked an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that came to be known as, “The Toronto Outpouring”, “The Toronto Blessing”, or “The Father’s Blessing”.

What was meant to be several nights of meetings turned into weeks, months and then years of God’s people gathering every night of the week except Monday to receive a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit. Crowds grew to hundreds, and then thousands of people from all over the world, hungry for more of God. People with decades of brokenness were set free emotionally and filled with the peace and joy of the Lord. Marriages were restored. Burnt out pastors were strengthened and refreshed. People were set on fire with a new passion for the Lord.

A few months after the outpouring started, my pastor and a group of leaders from my church flew to Toronto to receive whatever God had for them. They came home with stories of how they encountered the love and power of God. As they shared these stories on a Sunday morning, some were overcome by God’s presence and unusual things started to happen. Some fell down laughing. Some where intoxicated by the Spirit of God and could barely speak. The presence of God filled our church and our pastor asked that everyone who wanted a fresh touch from God to come forward for prayer. I was one of the first ones to the front of the church. As someone from the prayer team gently touched me, the presence of God came over me and somebody standing behind me caught me as I fell to the floor. This was the beginning of night after night of “renewal meetings”. We would gather to worship, be encouraged and receive more of the Holy Spirit. To this day, I can show you spot after spot in that church building where I had life changing encounters with Jesus. Not only did this outpouring have a dramatic impact on our church on the east coast of Canada, but it also impacted thousands of churches all over the world. Churches and ministries such as Bethel, Redding, Iris Ministries (Heidi Baker) and Holy Trinity Brompton in the UK were radically touched and impacted by this historical move of God.

I am not oblivious to the fact that, The Toronto Blessing came with it’s share of criticism and controversy. But, so has every revival or move of God in history, including the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). The truth is, the outpouring in the mid 90’s is still bearing fruit all over the word. And, just like other moves of God, there are things we can learn from it. Here are five things that I learned from, The Toronto Blessing:

1. Hunger Attracts Heaven.

What many people don’t know, is that prior to the outpouring in 1994 John and Carol Arnott, at the time Sr. Pastors of The Toronto Airport Vineyard Church were spending every morning in prayer, asking God for a visitation of the Holy Spirit. And, Randy Clark, who was used by God as a catalyst for the outpouring was visiting various places around the world where God’s Spirit was moving. Many others were seeking God, asking Him to do something extraordinary in and through them.

James 4:8 says, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”. Some people ask, “is the Kingdom of God about God seeking us, or us seeking God?” I believe the answer is,”yes”. It is both. Like any relationship, our relationship with God goes both ways. We can move God’s heart. And, He responds when we draw near to Him.

2. God responds to expectation.

During the outpouring at my home church, our pastor told us that we can encounter God at home the same way that we encounter Him at church. I got excited! I was a fairly new believer, so I just did what we did at the renewal meetings we were having. I would play worship music in my bedroom, and while standing I would hold out my hands as though I was going to receive a touch from Heaven. There was no prayer team, so I would put one hand on my head and say, “come Holy Spirit”. And, I believed He would. He did. The presence of God would come upon, and I would fall over. I thought, “I guess I’m the catcher too!” and would put one hand behind me to let myself down. Then, I would lay on the floor, sometimes for hours while God’s presence washed over me and filled me afresh.

King David wrote, “Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

God wants us to experience Him even more than we want to experience Him. Believing this creates expectation in our hearts.

3. God wants to move on His terms, not ours.

Many people say they want revival, but what they really mean is, “I want God to move the way that I want Him to move, in a way that I think is best and in a way that I am comfortable with”. Of course, no one actually says this, but if we are honest many of us think that way, at least subconsciously. The Holy Spirit is called, The Comforter, but He’s not afraid to make us uncomfortable. A key to making room for God to move is allowing Him to move on His terms, not ours. Some people quote, “all things must be done decently and in order” (first Corinthians 14:40). This is true, but who’s version of, “decently and in order” are we going for? Cemeteries are pretty orderly, but there isn’t much life there.
Of course, we need to judge spiritual manifestations by their fruit. But, just because something makes us feel uncomfortable, or just because we have not seen God move in a certain way before, it doesn’t mean it’s not Him moving. He’s God, and we need to be careful not to put Him in a box.

4. We need to have more faith in God’s ability to bless and protect us than we do in the devil’s ability to deceive us.

In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus told His disciples that if they ask for the Holy Spirit, that’s what the Father will give them. Unfortunately, some people have too big of a devil and too small of a God. Fear is faith in the wrong thing. Do we have more faith in God’s nature – that He’s a really good Father Who wants to bless and love on His children, or in the devil’s ability to deceive us? If we shrink back from encountering God’s presence out of a fear of deception, we are already deceived.

5. The Father Wants to Have Fun With His Kids!

One of the things that happened during the outpouring, is people were filled with so much joy that at times they laughed uncontrollably until their stomach hurt! (including me). This shouldn’t surprise us since the Bible tells us that, “In His presence is fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). Something tells me that, “fullness of joy” means more than a half grin once in a while. Romans 14:17 tells us that the Kingdom of God consists of, “righteousness, peace and joy”. That means that joy is one third of the Kingdom of God! God likes it when His kids are happy.

In Acts 2 we read that when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers, the religious community accused them of being drunk on wine (see Acts 2:13). The only explanation for this is that they were so filled with joyful bliss that it was though they were intoxicated by presence of God! Perhaps that’s why Paul said, “don’t be drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Being drunk on alcohol is a cheep substitute for the joy of the Lord. Maybe God wants His kids to be so free and happy, that the gospel becomes attractive to people.

There have been many amazing moves of God throughout history. I think we should celebrate them, honor them, and be hungry for more. I believe that the best is yet to come; that the Father is saving the, “best wine” for last. May we be a people who ask for and welcome another move of the Holy Spirit. Don’t put God in a box. Let Him be God. Let Him move how He wants to move.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you”.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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The Merciful Judge

 

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A few months ago I was pulled over by the police for driving 30 miles per hour in a 20 miles per hour zone. I was given a citation, not only for driving over the speed limit but also for driving with an out of state driver’s license. I thought about playing the, “my pregnant wife is at home on bed rest, and I’m looking after her so I haven’t had time to switch my license over” card.  However, I decided to own my mess rather than attempt the easy way out.

When I appeared in court, I signed in at the registration desk and was shuffled into a court room with many others, with instructions to turn off our cell phones and wait for the judge. It was my first time in court and I didn’t really know what to expect. Part of me felt a sense of guilt beyond my, “crime”. I thought, “what if I see someone I know?”  “What if they go to the church where I’m a pastor?”

When the white haired judge came into the room, he smiled and cracked a few jokes. He explained what the procedure would be and said he would try to get through everything as fast as possible. I was immediately struck by his kind demeanor. As he called each person forward, he spoke to them quietly as not to expose their reason for being there.

However, despite his attempt to “cover” each person, I could hear each conversation. And, it seemed that with each person, he looked for reasons to issue the least possible penalty. It was evident that he genuinely wanted to show as much mercy as possible. When one particular young man went forward, the judge noticed that he was assigned to the wrong precinct. Apparently, that was reason enough for the judge to say, “you’re free to go!”. Just like that, he was a off the hook and, “went on his way rejoicing”.

Finally, it was my turn. I handed the judge my citation and sure enough, he looked for reasons to lessen my fine.

“Are you a student?”

“No” (perhaps if I were, I would not be required to get a new license) 

“Would  you like to pay the full amount or would you like a payment plan?”

As with everyone else, the judge probed for reasons to show kindness. And, as I sat there watching the judge issue as much mercy as his job would permit, I felt tears come to my eyes. I thought to myself, “that’s the heart of our Heavenly Father”. We have a God who longs to show kindness.  Amanda Cooke in her song, Mercy perfectly declares, “You delight in showing mercy”.  

Like the kind, white haired judge who clearly desired to show mercy rather than judgment, we have a Righteous Judge who takes great pleasure in showing kindness, mercy and grace. However, He has no need to search for a reason. He has provided the reason and that is, “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  There is no need to, “make a case” for yourself. The case was settled when He said, “it is finished”.  We only have need to believe it and receive it.

Keep It Simple

 

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For the past number of years there has been an increasing trend toward minimalism. This has influenced architecture, interior design, wardrobes and even coffee shops. There is an emphasis on quality over quantity. Many are agreeing that simplicity is attractive and that, “less is more”.

I recently heard about a coffee shop that not only prided itself in serving great coffee, but also chose not to make cream and sugar available to customers. After all, why present the option of ruining the perfect cup of coffee? This only makes sense to those deemed, “coffee purists”.

I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t been influenced by the, “less is more” camp. I would rather pay more money for a quality, timeless peace of clothing that I’ll wear for years to come than purchase a whole bunch of cheap pieces that will need to be replaced way too often. When traveling, it feels good to pack light and only take that which is essential. But also, as I’ve thought about the popular movement toward simplicity, I have started to see how this type of thinking parallels that of the Kingdom.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote to them partly in response to false teachers who had tried to dissuade the church from Paul’s pure and simple teaching of Christ’s Gospel. In Paul’s zeal for the simplicity of the good news he wrote, “But I am afraid that , as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

That God the Father sent Jesus the Son to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God is simply the best news that the world could ever hear! The Gospel is so pure, so simple, yet so powerful. It needs nothing added to it, and may we never subtract anything from it. It is, “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people” (Colossians 1:26). 

The Gospel doesn’t require our crafted articulation or spectacular presentation. It works by itself. Paul knew this when he wrote, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

We live in a time when insight and revelation is abundant within the church. This is good, and I pray that it only increases. However, let us not allow a pressure to be profound distract us from the simplicity of the Gospel. May we continually fall in love with the best news the world has ever heard. And, may our response be a simple and pure devotion to Christ.

Be The Answer

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A few months ago my wife Anna and I stopped at Freebirds for lunch on our way home from an appointment. The young man making our burritos seemed friendly, and I asked him if he had pain in his back. He said yes, and I told Him I believed God wanted to heal him. I asked if I could pray for him, and he replied, “what I really need is healing in my heart”. He proceeded to tell me that he’s been going through a difficult season emotionally. I told him that God could heal his back and his heart, and I prayed for him. He seemed to be touched, and asked if he could give me a hug. After giving him a hug, I gave him an info card for our church and invited him to visit us sometime. His name was Evan.

A couple weeks later I was speaking at our Sunday evening service and invited people forward for prayer at the end of the service. One of the first people who came up was a young man in a ball cap who with tears in his eyes said, “do you remember me?”. I said no, and he reminded me of our encounter at Freebirds. It was Evan. He told me that “something” told him he was suppose to visit our church that night, and he rode his bike to our church from the other side of San Antonio… in August! Evan began to tell me that the message spoke directly to him. I asked if he wanted to give his life to Jesus and he did, then and there.

I don’t remember a time when people seemed to be this open to the gospel. Perhaps it’s just a change in my own perspective, but it still stands – the people of our cities long for a relationship with God. Do they want religion? No. But, they do want to know their Creator and the reason why they were created. Jesus is the longing of every human heart, the “Desire of All Nations” (see Haggai 2:7). And I believe if we want to, we can play a part in seeing people find what they may have been searching for their entire lives.

At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus told His disciples to ask the Lord to send laborers into the harvest (see Matt.9:35-38). Matthew 10 then tells us that Jesus sent out His disciples with power to preach the gospel of the Kingdom (see Matt 10:1,7-8). It’s important that we pray for God to send people out to proclaim the good news. But, are we willing to be the answer to our own prayer?

I don’t believe that we’re all called to stand on the stages of the world and preach to thousands at a time. However, I do believe we’re called to represent Jesus to the ones He puts in front of us. Look for opportunities to demonstrate the love of God. Become the answer to someone’s prayer.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Comparison

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We can learn a lot about our Creator by looking at His creation. The earth is full of uniqueness. Marked by diversity. It’s impossible to find two trees that look exactly the same. No two mountains are identical. Each and every snow flake contains it’s own special design. And of course, every single person is different from every other. Even “identical twins” have their own personalities, character traits, likes and dislikes. It seems to be clear – the Father absolutely delights in individuality. And yet, many of us find ourselves comparing ourselves to other people, even wishing we were someone else. We say to our selves, “if only I was as gifted as that person..”, “if only I was as smart as them…” or “what i would do to trade lives with that person”.

Could it be that sometimes we simply lose sight of who we really are? The truth is, each and every one of us is designed so uniquely by God, that we can each touch His heart in a way that no one else can. God doesn’t just love you in some generic sense. He actually likes you. You touch His emotions. He takes tremendous delight in you. The more we understand this, the more we will like ourselves. It causes us to be comfortable in our own skin. That’s why when God called the Prophet Jeremiah He told Him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). In essence, God was saying, “Jeremiah, before you were even conceived I knew every intimate detail about you, and I liked what I saw”. Before God gave Jeremiah his assignment, He gave him his identity. He wants to do the same for you and me.

The prophet Isaiah declard, “the whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) It’s true. All of creation points to the glory of God (see Romans 1:20). That’s why when God created the earth He said it was good. However, as good as the earth is, nothing in His creation displays His nature like you and I. We bear the very image of God Himself.

Not only do you touch God’s heart in a way that no one else can, you also display His nature in a way that no one else can. The way you were designed – your personality, giftedness and what you love to do displays a unique facet of His glory. Therefore, the moment you try to be someone else is the moment you start doing the world a disservice. The world needs who you are. The world needs you to be yourself.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1-2

Seven Keys for Becoming A Great Leader

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We are all called to lead in some way or another. Whether you are a barista, a church pastor, a stay at home mom or the CEO of a large corporation, you are called to have a positive influence on the people around you. And although some don’t consider themselves “natural leaders”, there are ways that we can position ourselves to maximize the impact that we have on those around us. This is far from a comprehensive list, but here are some thoughts:

1. Show value for people. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. It’s ok to want results, but don’t allow your love for results to become greater than your love for people. Seek heart connection. Get to know the people you are leading. Let them know that you’re thankful for them. It’s amazing what people will accomplish when they know they are truly valued.

2. Be intentional. People rarely become great leaders by mistake. It takes effort. Even leaders who are “naturally gifted” need to continually do things that they don’t feel like doing. Put things in your calendar that need to get done and follow through. Good leadership takes discipline.

3. Never stop learning. The best leaders are the best learners. The moment we feel like we have “arrived” is the moment we will start to level off in our influence and effectiveness. If there’s an area you want to grow in, read a book regarding that area or find a mentor who will pour into you.

4. Exercise humility. Some consider humility to be a weakness. In reality, it is one of the greatest strengths one can possess. Be open to the perspectives and ideas of the people you lead. Don’t think that you have to have all the answers, and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. People will respect you more for being honest rather than trying to have an answer for everything.

5. Display confidence. There’s a big difference between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance is usually rooted in insecurity and a need to prove something. Confidence, on the other hand is an inner courage that comes from knowing that you are called and equipped for a given purpose. When you show confidence, the people you are leading feel safe.

6. Ask for feedback. I was mentored by someone who continually asked for feedback. When he was finished speaking at a conference he would say, “I want you to tell me two things you liked about what I shared and one thing I could do to improve”. Keep in mind, this was coming from a man who had been public speaking for many years. Asking for feedback communicates value and helps you to further develop as a leader.

7. Get a life! It’s important for leaders to know how to relax and have fun. The more you enjoy life the more people will want to follow you. Recreation also promotes creativity. Make sure you have a day off and do things that you really enjoy. Try not to take yourself too seriously. You may be a leader, but you’re not the answer to every human problem.

Have a great day!

Chuck

5 Simple Ways to Be Others Focused

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Most people agree that those who are most fulfilled are those who are intentional about serving others. We were designed that way – created to live in community. Blessed, so that we might be a blessing. I don’t believe that we can earn God’s love. However, there is something about loving people in practical ways that aligns our heart with His and allows us to experience the joy of being like Jesus. Here are a few small ways to touch the people around you:

1. Send a text message to someone who may need encouragement.​ It’s fun to take a moment and ask yourself (and Holy Spirit) who could use some encouragement. Then, send a simple text letting them know that you’re thinking about them. Let them know what you appreciate about them. It doesn’t need to be someone who is “in crisis”. Everyone needs encouragement, even when they’re doing well.

2. Take someone in your neighborhood a gift, just because. We live in an age when many of us live beside the same people for years and never actually “meet” them. In our last house, we had numerous interactions with the neighbors on our right but most had something to do with asking the other to move their vehicle because it was blocking the driveway. I told Anna, “we should bring them some cookies or something” (which was code for, “you should bake some cookies so that I can bring them next door”). Hey, my heart was right! Unfortunately, those neighbors moved before they got to taste “our” baking. However, our neighbors on the left have tasted it several times. It’s fun to make someone smile and feel appreciated.

 

 3. Show interest in people. I​ remember leaving conversations thinking, “wow, I talked a lot about me and didn’t ask very much about them”. A good way to value people is to listen. It’s not that we shouldn’t have normal conversation and share things that are happening with us, but let’s be conscious about leaving room for the other person to share about themselves as well.

4. Pay for a stranger’s coffee.​ If you go through a Starbuck’s drive through, let the employee at the window know that you want to pay for yours as well as the person’s behind you. They might not know who you are and they may never be able to thank you. Your reward? You got to bless someone in some small way.

5. Have some nonperishable food and drinks in your car to hand out to people who may need it.​ I remember hearing that John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard church planting movement used to have a bag of groceries in his car at all times. That way, when he saw someone in need he could meet their need in a small, tangible way. When Anna and I started seeing a fair amount of people asking for food or money on street corners in our city, Anna went to Costco and bought a large box of granola bars and a case of vitamin water. Then, whether we were in Redding, Sacramento or wherever we had something to give to people. It’s not much, but I would rather do something even if it’s small. You don’t have to use the same ideas that I mentioned, but you’re welcome to. You may have some better ideas – ideas that work well for you.

We love because He first loved us. Let’s display that love in a tangible way.

 

“I’ll be your heart to the ones I meet
I’ll show Your love to the least of these
I would have never known, if You didn’t first love me 

I’ll learn to love when I’m your hands and feet”.

– Michael Ketterer and United Pursuit